Why I Love Wimbledon

British Summer means two things: complaining about the weather and tennis.

Every summer, the British public retreat indoors for two weeks, away from the little bit of sunshine we are bless with, to watch people hit balls over a net for hours on end. And we love it (is that tennis pun?).

It’s Wimbledon season and suddenly everyone is a tennis expert. Who cares about the other fifty weeks of the year? When the world’s best player descend upon London, we are fixed to our screens, entranced by the ball going back and forth between grunting figures in all-white.

Hands up, I am guilty of this. Although I adore watching tennis, both on TV and in real life, I never actively seek out coverage or follow the world’s rankings. At the end of June, I get swept along by tennis fever along with everyone else and names that would be unknown to me usually are filling every conversation – Kerber, Raonic, Djokovic, Konta… Forget the football players raking in their millions, the players on the court steal the limelight.

Why do I get so caught up in this? Okay yes, I know that whenever there’s a big sporting event, it seems to sweep across the nation and everybody becomes a fan. Just look at the Olympics, the Six Nations, the World Cup… It’s hard not to want to be involved in the drama and the atmosphere to support your team with every other temporary fan.

But Wimbledon holds a special place in my heart that no other big sports event ever will. Be prepared, this is one of the rare occasions I will get soppy.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but tennis culture has this indescribable dignity that feels so stereotypically British. It’s the hush that falls over the crowd at important moments. It’s the head-to-toe white sports kit. It’s the shots of the spectators dressed like they’re going to a wedding rather than a match. It’s the presence of the royal family.

It almost makes you want to shout about how it’s all just ‘jolly good fun’, don a bowler hat and drink a cup of tea.

There’s also a personal connection I have to Wimbledon because on the day of the Men’s Final, my mum and I have started celebrating it by drinking Pimms, and eating finger sandwiches and, of course, strawberries and cream for dessert.

I love being able to share something like that with her and being able to spend time doing something completely and unashamedly indulgent together. There’s something to be said for tradition; it guarantees that you make time for each other amidst everything else.

Maybe that’s why I get so caught up in Wimbledon – because, to me, the big finale means something more than just who wins that year; it’s an excuse to be with one of my favourite people.

Or maybe it’s just the fruity booze.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

The Charlie Gard Case: A Lot of Questions Without Answers

I’m going to link a few sources at the end of the post, but this is a brief run-down of what has happened so far:

  • Charlie Gard is the 11-month old son of Connie Yates and Chris Gard.
  • When he was born, he presented as a healthy baby but has since deteriorated due to a rare genetic condition.
  • He is currently being kept alive by a ventilator because he cannot breathe on his own. He’s suffered severe brain damage, and his heart, liver and kidney have all been impacted.
  • The prognosis for conditions like Charlie’s are rarely hopeful, as there is no cure yet.
  • The parents have gone to court to keep him on life support after the doctors recommended allowing Charlie to die
  • Since then, doctors in the US have offered a treatment that is still in experimental stages.
  • Influential names like Donald Trump and the Pope have supported Connie and Chris, as well as a petition and campaign being set up in favour of keeping the life support going.
  • As I write, they’re in court discussing whether or not to keep Charlie Gard alive.

I don’t want to weigh in with my opinion on this. I am not a doctor nor a parent, so my view is entirely that of an outsider; I can sympathise and speculate all I like but I won’t fully understand either side.

Instead, as I’ve been following it day-to-day and reading the various opinion pieces on the case, it raises some difficult questions.

Should we be contesting the views of medical professionals, who have trained for years for situations like this? But don’t they get it wrong sometimes – the wrong diagnosis, the wrong dose, the wrong prognosis? People with only twenty-four hours to live have survived weeks or months beyond that.

And how can we say no to a mum and dad who would do anything for their child? There is no doubt that they love Charlie, after everything they have gone through to keep him breathing. Then again, what if they’re too emotionally involved to see the cold hard facts and properly assess the situation?

We also have to look at the petition, which has 49,000+ signatures, as far as I am aware. Although an impressive number, how many of those people will have properly considered all options, with all the available information? How many are the signatures of people who just like to be outraged? I am acquainted enough with Twitter to know that some people like to get angry and offended for the sake of being angry and offended.

Can a court decide whether someone lives or dies? They are in the same position I am, where they are just listening to two sides of a story and judging for themselves. Does this make them uninformed, or the objective decider on the whole situation? Yet that is exactly what their job is – to listen, assess and decide. What about the President of the United States and the Pope adding their voices to the debate? Is it right for them to use their platforms to try to influence the decision?

If the ruling is in favour of the Charlie’s parents, what sort of quality of life can be expected for the 11-month-old? At the moment he can’t live off life support and the UK doctors cannot offer him any treatment, so is this all there is for him?

Let’s say they win the court case and they are able to fund the nucleoside bypass therapy in the US. How much can this treatment do for him? Is there a chance he will be able to survive without life support?

Another consideration is that they don’t know if he is in pain at present. Is it fair to keep him alive if there’s a chance he is?

My answer to all of these is ‘I don’t know’. That’s not from fear of being too opinionated or offending anyone. I genuinely feel like I have no clue what I would do if I was the one to make that decision. Who am I to decide on the life of someone else? Even if I did have the medical knowledge of the doctors or the emotional connection of the parents, I don’t think this will be a case that could ever be fully understood by any side.

Good luck to the court, because whatever conclusion they come to, it’s going to crush the losing side.

Best wishes,

Siobhan

A few links I think deal with it with relative objectivity. A lot of media coverage takes one side or another, so take whatever you read with a pinch of salt. Who would have thought that journalism could have an agenda?!

BBC News

The Guardian (they also have a few interesting arguments in the opinion section)

The Independent

Racism in Parliament – Wait, We’re Still Talking About This?

Before you read on, click this link to see the BBC news story that I’m basing my response off for some context. To give you a heads up, this is most likely to be a rant post more than an analysis of any sort. I’m really fucking furious a tad disgruntled about the situation. Please don’t read it if you’re likely to get offended by what I have to say as it’s really not worth an argument.

For a brief overview of what happened in Parliament on 10 July: Anne Marie Morris, a Conservative MP, used the n-word to describe Brexit.

Let me just reiterate. A member of Parliament, whose job it is to represent the opinions of the people, decided that it was acceptable to use a racist term in a public discussion.

I genuinely had to take a moment when I first read the news article because if it wasn’t so disgusting, the ridiculousness of the situation would have made me laugh. I’m not going to repeat what was said on here but it is in the BBC’s coverage. It’s 2017 – no one has seen something like that used in the public sphere, whether that be politics or law, in decades.

It kind of felt like I was reading a scene from To Kill A Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn. I wouldn’t have thought that I would have to argue against the use of such obvious racist speech in my lifetime. Silly me for presuming we had gotten over that after decades of civil rights campaigns!

Morris said it was “unintentional” in her apology, which is the most apathetic attempt at an apology I can think of. She’s also implied that it was a slip-up, a mistake of not thinking before she spoke. So this is something she says or thinks regularly? In our modern society, why would a phrase like that even come to mind? I can’t say I have ever had to pause before I spoke because I was worried that what I was about to say belonged in the 1930s American Deep South.

And let’s say she does find phrases like that commonplace in her language. Why would it not occur to you to filter that out in a public setting? More particularly, a televised setting that is supposed to be a place of debate for the whole of the UK? Even if she considered an acceptable word, surely she realised that other people wouldn’t be best pleased.

I don’t even think this is “political correctness gone mad”. The extent to which we should be PC is a tentative subject and where I stand is somewhere in the middle: we need to be mindful of the language we use as we become a more equal and liberal society, but some people like to be outraged for the sake of being outraged.

I’d like someone to try and argue that this is us being overprotective in our political correctness. There’s no mistaking that it is a word with a vile and violent history. Yes, it may have recently been appropriated, transformed and used amongst some people or in songs. To me, that’s irrelevant. She is, first and foremost, a white person so it is not her word to appropriate. Second of all, the phrase she used was intended to sound like an old saying (although I can’t be the only one who has never heard it before?). Something with origins in the past, like “butter wouldn’t melt” or “raining cats and dogs”. Except, you know, racist. Surprisingly enough, the phrases that come from the past are of their time, meaning that this one probably has racist undertones.

A quick Google search told me that it is thought to have originated at the time of the Underground Railroad, when slaves from the US South were escaping the North for freedom. Many apparently had to hide in woodpiles from the authorities to avoid being recaptured. How repulsive that a politician thought it was perfectly fine to make a reference to anything like that as though it held no meaning? I don’t care that the discussion was about the UK getting no deal in Brexit, and not a direct debate on race. It’s still ignorant and dismissive and makes me feel icky.

Yes, I am concluding this with ‘icky’ because the revulsion I feel can’t really be put into words. Just imagine someone shuddering and having to put down their coffee for a minute to make sure that she read the notification on her phone properly. Anne Marie Morris couldn’t allow me my first coffee of the day before making me angry, how disrespectful.

Joking aside though, Theresa May made the right decision to suspend her; how can we have someone like allowed to enter the political decisions that could determine our position with the EU? I only wait to see how long it is before she’s quietly allowed back in.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Love Island: Not My Type On Paper

Every night at 9pm for the past few weeks, I have sat in front of my TV in my pyjamas with a warm beverage of some kind, awaiting Iain Stirling’s voice to announce the start of my latest obsession: Love Island.

For those of you with lives who don’t know what Love Island is, it is basically a reality TV show which involves a group of single people being stuck in a villa in Spain together with the aim of “finding love”.

Even if you have never watched it, anyone with a Twitter account is probably sick to death of the hashtag #LoveIsland taking over their feed every weeknight.

I have never watched Big Brother or any other reality show that just watches people interact with one another in a small environment, the typical result being a programme of arguments and sex (or a combination of the two) amidst inane conversations about their most important topic: themselves.

It’s predictable and stupid and mind-numbing – yet here I am, every night, eyes glued to the screen. This isn’t my usual kind of entertainment; I prefer reading to movies most of the time, and if I am watching TV, it’s usually a fictional series with a clever pot, well-written dialogue and developed characters (Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Girls are recent favourites). Watching a group of people talk to each other for an hour about absolutely nothing whilst sitting in swimsuits and smoking should be my idea of entertainment hell.

I confess: I am too invested in the melodrama of these people to stop. But it’s MTV double, Ex On The Beach, holds no appeal whatsoever to me. What is it that makes me watch this show over any of the others that are literally following the exact same format?

I reckon that it’s a case of FOMO, or the Fear Of Missing Out. Everyone online is talking about, everyone in work is talking about, the girl who does my nails, the people behind me in the queue at Tesco, some randomer I walk past in the street whose conversation I only catch a snippet of… It’s all about what happened last night on Love Island.

We’re fascinated by who kissed who, who got kicked off, or who the new islander is. The phrases said over and over by these people who have the conversational range of planks of wood, are now entering our conversations. Is someone our type on paper? Have we been mugged off? Did you know that Marcel is from Blazin’ Squad? These are inside jokes that have saturated our speech, and although we use them mockingly, didn’t we do the same with ‘YOLO’ and ‘bae’? We made fun of it and then suddenly, it was just another part of our everyday language.

So maybe it’s a subconscious worry that I’ll miss out on conversations if I don’t know what they’re talking about. There’s also the fact that it feels almost like a community. Yes, I am in most nights watching tv, but so is everyone else. We can be lazy and antisocial but it doesn’t feel it because you know that so many other people are doing the same thing as you at the same time. You’re not missing out on anything, because Love Island is where everyone is.

Or perhaps I’m overthinking it. After work, it’s nice to sit down for an hour and not have to fully engage in anything. It’s quite pleasant to let idiotic chatter wash over you and take a break from your life to watch other people cause drama for the sake of entertainment.

I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing: you’ll know where to find me at nine o’clock tonight.

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Tackling the Tinder Taboo

Everyone in their twenties who has ever used Tinder will have a disaster story for you. The guy who would not stop sending nudes. The girl who was actually in a relationship. That one person who turned out to be double the age they said they were.

They’re fairly normal in comparison to some of the experiences I’ve heard about, some of which are funny and some of which have every level of creepiness covered.

The basic format of swiping the people you like the look of one way and all the people you find unattractive the other is shallow. Most people aren’t looking for commitment – let’s be honest, even friends with benefits is a bit too intense for most Tinder users.

Except for the fact that it isn’t.

I’ll admit that the reason I first downloaded the app was because my friend was having boy problems, so all the girls in our flat got it together and spent a night together having a bit of a laugh at the whole thing. Since then, I’d repeatedly deleted it, then downloaded it again when I was drunk, desperate or bored.

The thing about Tinder is that it’s easy to just mindlessly swipe right on hot people, chat to them for a bit if you match, then never make contact again. If you’re sat in watching TV re-runs on a weeknight and trying to pass the time, it’s entertaining to see what chat up lines people come up with. And yeah, it gives you a bit of a confidence boost that people think you’re attractive.

So the first time I got asked “do you fancy meeting up for a drink?”, I honestly didn’t know how to respond. My first instinct was scepticism – I presumed it wasn’t really their intention to have a few drinks and get to know each other, it was a precursor to sex. That’s fine, but just not my thing.

It took a while but I got over myself and have been on a few Tinder dates. Some were obviously just looking for a one night stand, and I left pretty quickly after my gin and tonic (never mid-gin and tonic though, can’t waste a good drink).

What surprised me was that some of the people I met in real life were genuine. They were on a dating app to date. Absolutely shocking behaviour.

A few of them have turned into second dates. A couple became third and fourth dates. That’s kind of been it for me because they lost interest, or vice versa.

Tinder is a bit of a guessing game. Correction: a massive guessing game. A selfie or two, a line about where someone is from and their age… That’s all you get to judge whether you’re interested. You might get a match, you might start chatting but they could literally be anyone. And if they are being honest in their profile, you still have no clue what they want or whether they’re anything close to what you want. Tinder is an effort and you can’t blame a girl for being a pessimist.

But, and this is a big but, it’s possible to get a real-life relationship. Amidst the guys and girls trying to find someone to sleep with, there are a few of us who are looking for something else.

Yes, desperation probably drove us there and we’re really not hopeful that anything will come of it. We’re not really committed to the search for a relationship otherwise we’d be paying for match.com, but it’s nice to flirt and date a bit when you don’t know how else to meet people. Pathetic as it sounds, I don’t really care about putting that out there. A relationship has never been the be-all and end-all for me, so it’s not like it’s a last resort to find The One (even typing that makes me vomit a little). You can’t look at someone’s profile and attempt to work out if they’d be a good boyfriend or girlfriend because come on, that’s ridiculous and you’ll never find anyone that fits your “type”.

When it comes to dating apps, don’t knock it until you try it. At the end of the day, if it ends up being horrific, at least you’ll get a funny experience to recount to your friends (with exaggerated voices and everything).

Everyone has a Tinder disaster story, true, but I think everyone has also heard at least one success story too.

I’m going to my cousin’s wedding in September. She’s marrying a guy she matched with on Tinder.

Have you ever used Tinder, or any other dating app? What’s your best story from it, good or bad?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

Three Things I’ve Learnt After Three Weeks of My Internship

This time four weeks ago, I had just started my summer internship in Newcastle. Nervous doesn’t even begin to cover how I was feeling walking into the building. However, after three full weeks here, I think I’m finally finding my stride, or at least have stopped the nervous gabbling long enough to get some work done.

I still have another ten weeks to go, so there’s plenty of time for me to fuck up learn more. I have already learnt some valuable lessons in these first few weeks, though, which I think were pretty important for me to get on board ASAP.

  1. Make a good impression

    On top of wearing that look of ignorance that every newbie can’t hide, I was also so over-dressed in my black dress and boots when everyone else was in jeans and jumpers. I’d wear ball gowns every day if I could, so being over-dressed doesn’t really embarrass me. Under-dressing is a different matter altogether. If I had rocked up in my dirty Nikes whilst the rest of the office were in suits and heels, I don’t think I could have gone back for a second day.

    Also, you have to brown-nose a bit. Without cutting corners or being sloppy, power through all the work they give you and ask for more. In fact, suck up like an oversized teacher’s pet and offer to do all the crappy jobs no one else wants to be stuck with, like filing or doing a tea round. Eagerness might make you feel ridiculous but it’ll benefit you in the long run when you become known as the intern who actually does work – which can be a rare occurrence in some companies.

  2. Sometimes, you won’t have anything to do

    An intern is there to help out and get work experience. You really don’t have much responsibility at all because most of the time, you’re just assisting rather than heading up any big projects. I mean, that’s great because you can make a few mistakes without major repercussions, but it also means that sometimes, there’s nothing for you to do whilst you wait for everyone to do the high-priority stuff. Occupy yourself if you can with extra work, tidying up what you’ve done… Just don’t moan about being bored, or keep pestering the people who have actual things to do.

  3. You are temporary

    You weren’t there last month, and in a month or two you’ll be gone again. Although I’ve been lucky with the team I’m on (quick note: they are the NICEST people to work with), you cannot expect everyone to suddenly become your best friend. I’m not saying don’t talk to people because being the moody kid* is just as bad, but don’t jump into all their conversations or try to get involved in their personal lives. If you’re not asked to a team night out, don’t invite yourself along. It pays to be friendly, but not desperate, or just plain creepy.
    *yes, they will probably consider you as a kid if you’re a student.

I’ve heard so many horror stories about internships, from hours of pure boredom to being treated like shit on someone’s shoe. I’m definitely one of the lucky few who has stumbled into a position with lovely colleagues and interesting work, like publishing original content, interviewing incredible people and being able to see the outcome at event days. I am so grateful that I chose to take a bit of gamble by applying for this internship and living alone, away from home, rather than working somewhere I have no interest in at home.

Maybe it seems like bragging but I’m just happy that I seem to be giving myself a bit of direction. Let me be a bit smug.

I can’t wait to see what happens over the next two months or so. Maybe I’ll find a career path. Maybe I’ll finally learn how everyone likes their tea (oh my god I am useless at this, I always make it too strong).

How is your summer going? Have you started a job or an internship?

Best wishes,

Siobhán

How Do I Feel About Veganism?

Short answer: I haven’t a bloody clue.

I’m aware that by even bringing the word ‘vegan’ into the online sphere is a death wish so this post may seem like a poor idea. Nevertheless, I’m clearly a maverick and so I enter this topic with reckless and carefree abandon.

I am not vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, plant-based… I am a plain old omnivore. Growing up in a household that ate fairly simple, traditionally British meals meant that those concepts didn’t even exist to me until I was much older. We’ve always been a meat-and-two-veg kind of family: think roast dinners, sausage and mash, cottage pie and so on.

The first vegetarian I met was a girl in primary school whose family had never eaten meat. This was a foreign concept to me and I thought she was some exotic creature or something. It was baffling to me that she had never had chicken nuggets.

Since then, I obviously came across more people who lived vegetarian lifestyles and the idea became normal to me.

And then in high school, I was introduced to the elusive vegan. No longer a naïve and sheltered four-year-old , I reacted as any intellectual, mature teenager would: I regarded them as an alien.

Now, as a twenty-year-old who spends a lot of time online, I have discovered a diet for every person and nothing seems to surprise me anymore. There seems to be a lifestyle that cuts out every type of food, from meat to all animal products to only eating food that humans would have had in the Neolithic period. There are a lot of great books and online resources that show you how you can still get all your nutrition with substitutes. All good so far.

I would like to put it out there that I have no issue with these. In fact, I think that some of the reasons are entirely valid: factory farming, inhumane killing, and environmental harm caused by agriculture are problems that I am on board with finding solutions for.

What I disagree with is the restrictive nature and the psychological impact this can have. Diets that require you to cut out food groups suggest you can never eat that product again. There are some people in the online communities for these diets (no naming and shaming) who have an almost cult-like attitude to it. I fully acknowledge that this is a minority and not representative at all – please don’t hurt me. They make out that if you are a vegan and you have an egg, you are a disgrace. The guilt is piled on, suggesting you are an awful human being, that you are advocating immoral methods of farming. You are as bad as the factory farms. I’ve seen YouTubers and bloggers inundated with hate if they slip up even slightly. Even if it’s by accident.

And what about if, despite trying to find substitutes, you still aren’t getting the nutrition you need. Is it worth risking your own health to be able to say you follow one diet or another? Some of them don’t seem to allow for discrepancies and the rules are rigid. It feels like you’re all in, or not at all.

I eat meals that are predominantly meat-free. I bake vegan cupcakes and cookies. I make sure I shop for free-range eggs and meat, and I only buy honey when the bees haven’t been harmed in the collection of it. I don’t really fit into any of the diet categories, except I have habits from all of them.

Surely the fact that I eat less meat and I’m mindful of where my food comes from is still a good thing? Just because I can’t label my diet because I don’t eat a certain way 100% of the time, doesn’t mean I agree with the disgusting and barbaric ways that some animals are farmed. Shopping local promotes animal rights. Choosing to reduce my consumption of animal products contributes in even the smallest way towards reducing the carbon emissions from agriculture. What if everyone did that? What if we just opt for the alternative sometimes, without feeling that vegetarianism, veganism and everything in between, are exclusive clubs?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that instead of making it a matter of ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’, we can make small changes to our habits to help the planet. We don’t need to overhaul our entire lives from murderers to eco warriors.

I’m bracing myself for a negative response but I’d just like to finish this post by saying that this is the opinion of one person who is still trying to work out where she stands on this all. I would genuinely be interested to here people’s reasons for sticking to these lifestyles and start a conversation about it. I’m open to persuasion.

Best wishes,

Siobhán